A portion of Los Angeles County, including the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports, has been placed under quarantine for the Mexican fruit fly following the detection of three flies, including two mated females, within the City of Long Beach. Mated females are significant because they indicate a breeding population that increases the risk of spread of this pest. CDFA is working collaboratively on this project with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Los Angeles County Agricultural Commissioner’s Office.
The quarantine area measures 79 square miles, bordered on the north by CA-91; on the south by the Pacific Ocean; on the west by I-110; and on the east by Palo Verde Avenue. A link to the quarantine map may be found here: www.cdfa.ca.gov/plant/mexfly/regulation.html.
Sterile male Mexican fruit flies will be released in the area as part of the eradication effort. The release rate will be approximately 325,000 sterile males per square mile per week in an area up to 50 square miles around the infestation. Sterile male flies mate with fertile female flies in the natural environment but produce no offspring. The Mexican fruit fly population decreases as the wild flies reach the end of their natural life span with no offspring to replace them, ultimately resulting in the eradication of the pest. In addition, properties within 200 meters of detection sites are being treated with an organic formulation of Spinosad, which originates from naturally-occurring bacteria, in order to remove any mated female fruit flies and reduce the density of the population. Finally, fruit removal will occur within 100 meters of properties with larval detections and/or mated female detections.
The quarantine affects any growers, wholesalers, and retailers of susceptible fruit in the area as well as nurseries that grow and sell Mexican fruit fly host plants. Those businesses are all required to take steps to protect against the spread of the pest. At the Long Beach/Los Angeles ports, exports as well as imports may be impacted depending on specific circumstances. The quarantine will also affect local residents growing host commodities on their property. Movement of those commodities is not permitted. Residents are urged to consume homegrown produce on site. These actions protect against the spread of the infestation to nearby regions, where it could affect California’s food supply as well as backyard gardens and landscapes.
The Mexican fruit fly can infest more than 50 types of fruits and vegetables. For more information on this pest, please see a pest profile at: www.cdfa.ca.gov/plant/go/MexFly. Residents who believe their fruits and vegetables may be infested with fruit fly larvae are encouraged to call the state’s toll-free Pest Hotline at 1-800-491-1899.
While fruit flies and other invasive species that threaten California’s crops and natural environment are sometimes detected in agricultural areas, the vast majority are found in urban and suburban communities. The most common pathway for these invasive species to enter our state is by “hitchhiking” in fruits and vegetables brought back illegally by travelers as they return from infested regions of the world. To help protect California’s agriculture and natural resources, CDFA urges travelers to follow the Don’t Pack a Pest program guidelines (www.dontpackapest.com).
Mexico Has a Responsibility Regarding Immigration, Expert Says
By Mikenzi Meyers, Associate Editor
With immigration becoming a hot-button issue within the political arena, those in agriculture have a deeper insight into this controversial topic. Arnoldo Torres, of the National Institute for Latino Policies out of Sacramento and partner with the public policy consulting firm Torres & Torres, has long been a leading voice for immigration within the ag sector—while realizing both countries (America and Mexico) need to do their part.
“Mexico has a responsibility to its people. The Central American countries have a responsibility. We’ve got to make sure that those countries are doing what they have to do to keep people from having to go elsewhere to make a living and to live,” Torres explained.
He knows this from personal experience, when his grandfather made a move to America from Mexico, with no opportunity to go back.
“They realized that if they had gone back, there was never going to be a life for them back home,” he said.
Torres further added that the desire for immigrant workers purely correlates with their unique work ethic.
“There’s that saying that necessity is the mother of invention. Well, necessity is the mother of work. I mean, we work to address a necessity.”
If a market is lost, it takes time to get it back. California Ag Today recently spoke with Brian Kuehl, executive director of Farmers for Free Trade, about the topic. A concern is that competitors are entering the markets that we currently occupy.
“No farmers invest huge amounts of time and energy trying to open markets or trying to develop trade relationships, and they’re being torn up in a matter of months,” Kuehl said.
Tariffs will cause long-term problems. One major issue is that when tariffs are established, other countries will begin put to put tariffs on our food. Those countries then begin to plant more crops to adjust. Soon, those countries become their own producers instead of relying on the U.S. Those countries then look to other countries that are more dependable, which in turn becomes a competitor to the United States.
The renewal of NAFTA will help.
“If this is not resolved soon, we certainly are doing lasting damage to agriculture. It could trigger the next farm crisis,” Kuehl said.
It looks like the U.S. is moving toward a deal with Mexico on a renewal of NAFTA.
“Hopefully that would quickly lead to a deal with Canada,” Kuehl explained. “Mexico and Canada are our biggest trading partners.”
For many of our products, China is one our largest trading partners, and certainly one of the ones that is growing the fastest in terms of population.
“We do not want to squeeze ourselves out of the Chinese market for a decade to come; that that would be a colossal error,” Kuehl said.
The U.S. has routed products in the past. Some countries including Vietnam and Hong Kong route products into China.
“There might be a tariff on product going into China directly, but we know some of our growers are able to avoid the product that tariff by selling first to Vietnam and then Vietnam shifts into China,” Kuehl said. “That same tactic with Hong Kong is being shut down. China is getting much smarter at saying you can not circumvent our tariff, so we are going to hold you to these tariff rates.”
Congress Will Not and Cannot Do it Alone, Radanovich Says
By Hannah Young, Associate Editor
The future does not seem bright for California farmers who are desperately searching for labors to harvest crops. California Ag Today spoke with George Radanovich, president of the California Fresh Fruit Association and former U.S Congressman, about the need for immigration reform.
Radanovich spent 16 years in Washington, D.C, and from his experience is not convinced that Congress alone will make immigration reform right for California farmers.
“I think that we need to get to President Trump and suggest that he intervene by direct talks with Mexico and create a system that will not leave our farmers high and dry,” Radanovich said.
In order to assure that farmers have enough labor for harvest, immigrants should be allowed to stay in the country as long as they are working during the time the government is implementing a new system, affirming border control, and e-verifying immigrants, Radanovich explained.
However, getting a system of this type will be tough to get past Congress due to a large portion feeling that every farmer worker is probably illegal and needs to go back to Mexico or any other foreign country.
“They don’t get it because they don’t live here, most of them, so they don’t understand how the system works,” Radanovich concluded.
Julie Borlaug Honors her Famous Grandfather, Norman Borlaug, in Advancing Science in Agriculture
Editor’s Note: Julie Borlaug spoke recently at the 2016 Forbes AgTech Summit in Salinas, and shared with us the legacy of her Grandfather, Norman Ernest Borlaug, a man who used technology to ward off starvation and the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, the Medal of Freedom, the Congressional Gold Medal, as well as the importance of advanced technology in Agriculture.
Julie Borlaug, associate director for external relations, Norman Borlaug Institute for International Agriculture at Texas A&M University, introduced the Institute’s mission, “We design and implement development and training programs. We take the legacy of my grandfather and we carry it out through the land-grant mission of teaching, research and extension. We’re primarily funded by organizations like USAID and USDA, so we truly are a development agency.”
Here is more of what she shared:
We all know why we care about agriculture and a lot of why we care is pretty much some of the same reasons my grandfather was up against during the green revolution. My grandfather was the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, the Medal of Freedom, the Congressional Gold Medal and now a statue in the National Statuary Hall at the U.S. Capitol. However, when I speak about my grandfather I like to humanize him a little and make people realize he was a normal person and that anyone can, if they’re dedicated, change the world.
Growing up with him, we didn’t really know what he did. We just knew he flew through Dallas on his way to Mexico or Africa or India. In third grade, I took him to show and tell, and he was upstaged by a hamster. I think it was good for him.
When he got the Congressional Gold Medal I got to sit with him on stage and he had two minutes to talk. The entire Congress was shut down. At 10 minutes, Nancy Pelosi‘s staff [was] poking me from behind saying, “You’ve got to stop him.” I leaned forward to President Bush and I said, “They want him to stop. You’re the President.” He said, “This isn’t my thing, this is the Congressional.” Right at that point, I think we were about 18 minutes in, my grandfather said, “Poverty and hunger are fertile seeds for isms, and terrorism is one of them.” At that point Bush leaned back and said, “Don’t stop him now.”
My grandfather was many things. He was a warrior against hunger, he was a teacher, but first and foremost he was a scientist. He often said, “The fear of change is the greatest obstacle to progress.” He came down on the side of innovation and was known to be bold and quick.
He was a fierce advocate for innovation and technological change, especially when it came to developing countries and small-scale farmers. His most potent view of science was that man’s most advanced knowledge and technology should be used in the battle against hunger and poverty.
Like my grandfather’s green revolution, we have a huge challenge in front of us: How to feed 9 billion people. This is going to require new economic, political policies, new rounds of innovation, of technological advancements, but most importantly in agriculture, it will require a new way of agriculture to address things.
We have to change our thinking, we have to have new partners and we can’t be the traditional Ag and take a silo approach. We have to be interconnected, transformative, with greater transparency and we need to bring the life science technology entrepreneurs—everyone, even the medical community—to the table.
That’s one of the reasons why my grandfather’s green revolution was so successful. He realized he had to bring the government, economic infrastructure and technology together for the small-holder farmer for it truly to work, because agriculture alone cannot transform.
Like my grandfather, I strongly believe in biotechnology and innovation. I always get asked, “Can we feed 9 billion people?” My answer is yes, if we are allowed to. If my grandfather were here he’d say, “We are not going to be able to do this without science and without pushing the boundaries of innovation.”
To feed 9 billion we need to realize we have a new strain of fact-resistant humans and we have a lack of transparency, that’s all you can call them. I could call them something else, but that’s the most polite way.
We need to realize that our consumer is very different. We have mommy bloggers, we have foodies driving the conversation and the table is moving closer to the farm. We have all the misconceptions; a backyard garden is not farming.
Pretty backyard gardens with chickens running around is not going to feed the world. It takes more than that and we have a public who thinks that’s what it is. I always ask those people, if they want to go see reality, come with me to rural Kenya and let’s ask a female farmer what she needs. It’s seeds, inputs and technology.
We also have market confusion. We have vegan green beans, we have gluten-free cranberries, we have GMO-free beef. I was at an opening of Whole Foods a few years ago and there was a North Texas cattle company that was showing GMO-free beef and I had to walk over and ask what he meant. He said, “We do not genetically modify our cattle.” I said, “Well, of course you don’t. Do you mean you’re not giving feed that has been genetically modified?” He said, “No, no, no, we do that. We just don’t genetically modify our cattle.” It was great marketing.
We had GMO-free salt that sold at stores. I like that one. We have a public that believes everything on social media, especially what their 20-year-old yoga instructor says, who got a degree in nutrition online. We also have fear campaigns; look at what Greenpeace has done.
You cannot be anti-hunger and anti-innovation. If you are going to be anti-innovation, you better have a solution for us because we’re willing to accept it.
Innovation and NextGen
What’s really [fascinating] is where my grandfather would be excited about the future of Agriculture. My grandfather would be most excited about the gene revolution. We have gene-editing and synthetic biology. There are so many new solutions out there. We have a sharing economy, internet of everything, cloud biology, MachineryLink—something I’m involved in. It’s an uber platform for sharing of equipment.
In order to really get to my grandfather’s legacy, we have to remember that we are responsible for the next generation. We have to build the hunger-fighters that my grandfather built. The next generation is growing up with technology, they’re creative, they have bold ideas, they collaborate across discipline and they want change. We need to bring them to the table and support them.
When my grandfather got the Nobel Peace Prize, the Chair said, “Behind the outstanding results in the sphere of wheat research for which the dry statistics speak, we sense the presence of a dynamic, indomitable and refreshingly unconventional research scientist. We still need more of those today. It’s going to be unconventional partnerships and innovations that help us end hunger. Just remember, if we don’t allow it to happen here, if we try to ban the future of agriculture and innovation, it’s just going to happen somewhere else, and I think we want that to happen here.”
If my grandfather was here he would thank you for your dedication and he’d tell you to move faster, because there are 25,000 people who are going to die today while we’re debating future technologies. I think we need to always remember that.
Before he died he said he had a problem. This was when he was told he was going to pass away, and it was 3 days before he died. My mom and I asked what his problem was and he said it was Africa. “I never brought a green revolution to Africa.”
I quickly said, “All the hunger-fighters, everyone you’ve trained, everyone in this room is going to ensure we bring a green revolution to Africa that’s appropriate for each country and each area, and we will do that everywhere.” That is what you’re doing, but remember, your innovation and technology is only good when you take it to the farmer.
Bayer CropScience Horticulture Symposium Builds Global Relationships for Collaborative Problem-Solving
By Patrick Cavanaugh, Deputy Editor
Nearly 200 professionals in the horticultural industry from across the food chain and the value chain, and from Europe and North, Central and South America, gathered this week at the Bayer CropScience Horticulture Symposium in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Attendees were treated to an inspirational mix of lectures, panel discussions, as well as an interactive poster session, all incorporating forward-thinking sustainable practices into contemporary agriculture. Among the crops discussed were tomatoes, citrus, grapes, potatoes, bananas.
Rob Schrick, strategic management lead, Bayer CropScience Horticulture, based in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, said the event was the company’s second in a series of horticulture symposiums focused on international collaboration and problem-solving. “This is about bringing the best and brightest from across our industry,” said Schrick, “from influencers and universities to industry members like ourselves and the media. It’s about getting these creative minds together and discussing solutions. The solutions may not come from the symposium itself, but the connections that are made—you don’t know what will yield from those relationships.”
Jim Chambers, director of marketing, Bayer CropScience Food Production, said the Horticulture Symposium was all about sharing information on best management practices. “Bayer is a leader in the crop protection business within the horticultural space around the world, and this is a real opportunity to bring all of us within horticulture across the food chain and the value chain to talk, from the grower, to the processor, and to the consumer. It is a wonderful opportunity to work together to solve some very difficult challenges.”
“And, vivid to all attendees, was that members of the fruit and vegetable industry throughout the Americas have similar challenges to overcome,” noted Chambers. “It was very interesting; the issues that we talk and hear about in the specialty crop states such as California, Florida and Texas, are very much the same issues that people, for example in Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, or Central America, are facing. These issues do not go across just states or counties; they reach across the globe in solving these problems,” Chambers said.
Among the speakers were growers, commodity specialists from the industry and academia, and experts on sustainability practices, professionals on Maximum Residue Levels (MRLs), Bayer CropScience specialists and major agricultural association leaders such as Tom Nassif, ceo, Western Growers Association (WGA) and Dana Merrill, president, Mesa Vineyard Management Inc.
Bayer is a global enterprise with core competencies in the Life Science fields of health care and agriculture. Bayer CropScience, the subgroup of Bayer AG responsible for the agricultural business, is one of the world’s leading innovative crop science companies in the areas of seeds, crop protection and non-agricultural pest control. The company offers an outstanding range of products including high value seeds, innovative crop protection solutions based on chemical and biological modes of action as well as an extensive service backup for modern, sustainable agriculture.
(Photo features Rob Schrick, Bayer CropScience – Horticulture strategic management lead)
With a high spike in temperatures in the Central Valley, growers of leafy green vegetables are concerned about the quality of their products. Frank Ratto, vice president of marketing for Ratto Bros., a diversified century-old vegetable operation based in Stanislaus County, said that although the heat streak can cause internal burns in leafy green vegetables, he is confident that, with proper management, their leafy greens will be all right.
“The summer leafy green vegetable supply is always pretty good,” Ratto said, “so prices are very stable going into the fall. But, two or three days of a heat wave like the one we’re having right now can cause tremendous damage and escalate the price of our products. That may happen and we could be a victim or we could be a beneficiary.”
Given the heat wave, Ratto said Napa cabbage growers, in particular, are facing some difficulties. “Napa cabbage does not like heat,” he said, “because it will suffer from a lot of internal burns. Many coastal growers are having issues with it, so demand is tight and supplies are very low.”
Regarding vegetable prices, Ratto said that the price of cilantro was as high as $50 per box for the last three weeks, “but now it’s coming down to the $25 zone. Mexico had some supply issues, but it looks like they’re catching up, and supplies are improving, and the price is going down.”
Other leafy greens such as leaf lettuces, according to Ratto, are in good supply and quality right now.
Ratto said Ratto Bros. has expanded their organic products to include red and La Cinato kale; red, green, and rainbow Swiss chard; leaks; and collard and mustard greens,” among others.
“We’re trying to expand our organic offerings as more people look for organics in the store,” Ratto continued. “As growers, we know that both conventional and organics are healthy and nutritious—and we don’t really see a difference—but we give the consumer what they want. As long as everybody gets healthy, nutritious food, that’s all we care about.”
European Farmland under Pressure Due to Regulation and Diversion
By Laurie Greene, Editor
Jose Gomez Carrasco, executive sales manager for AGQ Labs and Technological Services based in Oxnard, is in charge of covering a large area that includes the U.S., Mexico and Central America. Noting global concern regarding how farmland is being used, particularly European farmland, Carrasco said, “There’s a growing population of around 150,000 or 170,000 new mouths every day to feed.” Carrasco said agricultural production on land designated for agricultural use in every country, worldwide, is being diverted to bio-ethanol, or bio-mass, or different renewable energy use, so the availability of agricultural products for food is diminishing.
Carrasco stated this progression needs to be moving in the opposite direction, “especially because there are other issues that are making production more challenging, such as water scarcity, soil erosion and the use and price of agro-chemicals, inputs and fertilizers, all of which are being controlled and monitored more and more.”
“The regulation of crop protection materials is intended to help everyone in the food supply chain,” he continued, “all the way from the grower to the consumer; however, sometimes these regulations can be quite burdensome.”
“In some cases regulations are not for the benefit of all,” Carrasco explained; “just for some. So in markets such as the European Union where the [maximum threshold] number of molecules registered has diminished from 1,000 to 300 or 400 in the last decade, we’re finding a lot of this regulation comes from Germany.” Carrasco said they are leaving a lot of farmers with no agro-chemicals in their arsenal, especially in Spain, Portugal, and Greece, all in southern Europe.
Russia’s threatened ban on U.S. poultry imports, the latest move in a sanctions skirmish over Moscow’s support of rebels in Ukraine, has agriculture companies alert to the risks of a conflict that’s already roiled trading of crops ranging from soy, beef and fruit to California pistachios.
Moscow has struck back against trade sanctions following the downing of a Malaysian jetliner last month by imposing food restrictions, and would add U.S. chickens to Ukrainian soy and other products Russia has blocked since it seized Crimea earlier this year: Australian beef, Latvian and Lithuanian pork, Moldovan fruit and Ukrainian juice.
Russia’s move to limit agricultural trade is seen as a sign the conflict with Washington is heating up. Russia imported about $1.3 billion in U.S. food and agricultural products last year, or about 11 percent of all U.S. exports to the country, according to U.S. Census data.
U.S. pistachio farmers have seen sales to Russia, the seventh largest export market, cut nearly in half this year because political tensions have made Russian importers hesitant to make purchases, said Peter Vlazakis, export market coordinator for the American Pistachio Growers.
Pistachio exporters have “a legitimate fear” about the potential for trade disruptions, Vlazakis said.
Russians may turn for pistachios to Iran, the world’s second largest producer after the United States.
An armed group last month occupied a Cargill sunflower-seed crushing plant in eastern Ukraine, a region supportive of the Putin government, and commodity trader Glencore is expected to have a hard time selling grain silos in the country.
Last week, the farm sector’s attention turned to poultry after Russia’s Federal Veterinary and Phytosanitary Inspection Service said it found signs of the antibiotic tracycline in four shipments of U.S. poultry. The service could not be reached for comment.
The food safety watchdog’s threat to ban U.S. poultry imports, reported in government-controlled Russian media, came days after fresh U.S. and EU sanctions over Russia’s support of rebels in Ukraine.
Russia is the second largest importer of U.S. broiler meat behind Mexico, buying 276,100 tons last year, or 8 percent of U.S. exports, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Russia’s purchases from January through May 2014 represented 7 percent of U.S. exports.
U.S. poultry exporters and producers said there were no problems with the meat. For some, the situation was hardly their first time dealing with trade troubles with Russia.
Russia has repeatedly been accused by the West of using food safety concerns and its veterinary service as instruments to ban supplies from countries with which it has strained relations or to protect its own industry. Explicitly banning a country’s products for political reasons would violate World Trade Organization rules.
Trade restrictions in prior years have caused some companies to back away from deals with Russian importers, said Jim Sumner, president of the USA Poultry & Egg Export Council.
The council has advised poultry companies to keep in contact with Russian importers so they will get early warnings should Moscow impose a ban.
For Russian President Vladimir Putin, targeting agricultural imports could be a low-cost way to retaliate against U.S. sanctions over Ukraine.
Other threats, especially any involving Russia’s export of oil and gas shipments, likely would bring additional sanctions on Moscow, said Robert Kahn, a senior fellow for international economics at the Council on Foreign Relations.
Russian sanctions on farm products would be “quite painful” for the companies affected, although the macroeconomic effects on the U.S. economy would be small, he added.
It speaks volumes that during our meetings in Mexico, the notion of “ganar-ganar,” or a “win-win” relationship was mentioned more than once. Our discussions have focused not only on building stronger trade relationships between our two markets, but in also in capitalizing on the shared resources of our people, climate and economy. A strong and growing Mexican market is a win for California and a win for Mexico.
In our meeting with Mexico’s Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Rural Development, Fisheries and Food we discussed the great opportunities for cooperation between our two markets that can have long lasting benefits for both of our economies. Working collaboratively to solve cross-border trade delays that impact businesses on both sides of the border is an issue that can be resolved. Further, we wish to explore opportunities that jointly leverage our resources and production capacity.
We can no longer consider a California/Mexico divide. We need to see how cooperation can benefit us both in the long-run. I’ve committed to SAGARPA that within the next 60 days we will have progress in moving forward with a collaborative relationship that involves the public and business sectors finding solutions to cross-border issues that benefit both markets and producers.
Following our meetings with SAGARPA we had the pleasure of meeting with Walmart Mexico and Central America. The company also stressed cooperation and a “win-win” relationship that California and Mexico can share.
In celebrating the successes of the 20th Anniversary of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), we should also celebrate the ongoing trade benefits of this relationship. Demonstrating this success, Walmart shared that their imports of U.S. produce has increased more than 10 percent each year for the last three years. This underscores that Mexico’s economy is growing and California is benefiting.
I look forward to furthering our trade relationship and cooperation with Mexico. It can be a “win-win” relationship like no other.